Asheen Phansey: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Asheen Phansey

LinkedIn Asheen Phansey

Asheen Phansey is the former Babson College professor who was fired after jokingly suggesting on Facebook that Iran’s leader should make a list of significant cultural sites in the United States to attack. Phansey wrote that Ayatollah Khamenei might target the “Kardashian residence” and the Mall of America.

Phansey deleted the post, which was shared to his personal Facebook page, and apologized for it. He told local news stations in the Boston area that the post was a “bad attempt at humor” and that he had been joking about the lack of ancient cultural sites in America compared to Iran. The remark was in reaction to President Donald Trump’s threat to attack 52 cultural sites important to Iran.

Leaders at Babson College did not view Phansey’s comment in a humorous light. He was suspended on January 8, 2020, before being officially terminated the following day.

In the aftermath, free speech advocates are speaking out in support of Phansey. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has called on Babson College to reinstate him, arguing that “it strains credulity to read Phansey’s post as sincerely advocating violence” and that the professor has the right to criticize the president and others in power.

Heavy is working to get in touch with Mr. Phansey to ask about the next steps and whether he plans to take legal action over his firing.

Here’s what you need to know.


1. Asheen Phansey Says His Facebook Post Was ‘Willfully Misinterpreted’ & Apologized For the ‘Sloppy Humor’

Asheen Phansey

Asheen Phansey wrote the controversial Facebook post on January 7, 2020, as tensions between the United States and Iran continued to flare. Days prior, President Trump had written on Twitter that the U.S. had identified 52 cultural sites that were important to Iran. He said that the sites would be “hit very fast and very hard” if Iran attacked any American citizens or assets. The president said 52 sites had been selected to represent the number of Americans that were held prisoner during the Iran Hostage Crisis that began in 1979.

Phansey wrote on Facebook in response, “In retaliation, Ayatollah Khomenei should tweet a list of 52 sites of beloved American cultural heritage that he would bomb. Um… Mall of America? Kardashian residence?” The post has since been deleted, but screengrabs have been shared online.

The post attracted a lot of attention from online critics, who called on Babson College to respond. Phansey was suspended the following day. Babson College posted a statement on its website:

“Babson College condemns any type of threatening words and/or actions condoning violence and/or hate. This particular post from a staff member on his personal Facebook page clearly does not represent the values and culture of Babson College. While we understand he has deleted the posts, we have immediately suspended him, with pay, pending the completion of our investigation. In addition, we are cooperating with local, state and federal authorities.”

Phansey released his own statement to local news outlets, insisting that his remark had not been intended as a call to violence. WCVB-TV published his apology, which he sent on January 8.

“I regret my bad attempt at humor. As an American, born and raised, I was trying to juxtapose our ‘cultural sites’ with ancient Iranian churches and mosques. I am completely opposed to violence and would never advocate it by anyone. I am sorry that my sloppy humor was read as a threat. I condemn all acts of violence. I am particularly sorry to cause any harm or alarm for my colleagues at Babson, my beloved alma mater, and the place where I have enjoyed teaching students and serving as its sustainability director.”


2. Babson College Fired Asheen Phansey One Day After Conducting What It Called a ‘Thorough Investigation’


Babson Fires Professor Who Made Post About IranA Babson College professor who made a controversial Facebook post about Iran has been fired.2020-01-09T22:18:06.000Z

Babson College announced that it would open an investigation related to Asheen Phansey’s Facebook post. The college said Phansey would be suspended with pay in the meantime. But the inquiry lasted only one day. Babson College shared on January 9, two days after Phansey wrote the post, that he had been fired. The statement on the institution’s website read:

“Babson College conducted a prompt and thorough investigation related to a post shared on a staff member’s personal Facebook page that does not represent the values and culture of the College. Based on the results of the investigation, the staff member is no longer a Babson College employee. As we have previously stated, Babson College condemns any type of threatening words and/or actions condoning violence and/or hate.”

In response, Phansey expressed disappointment over Babson College’s decision. He argued that his Facebook post had been “willfully misinterpreted” and meant as a joke to be shared among his friends.


3. Phansey: I Would Have Hoped Babson Would Have Supported My Right to Free Speech

Asheen Phansey said in his official statement that he had expected the leadership at Babson College to defend and support his First Amendment rights. He argued, “Beyond my own situation, I am really concerned about what this portends for our ability as Americans to engage in political discourse without presuming the worst about each other.”

The non-profit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, agreed with that sentiment. The organization, founded in 1999, explains on its website that its mission is to “defend and sustain the individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of liberty.”

FIRE has called on Babson College to reinstate Phansey in order to “save its good name.” The organization noted that as a private university, Babson is not legally “bound by the First Amendment,” but that Babson promised to respect freedom of expression in its faculty handbook.

The handbook states that when a professor “speaks or writes as a citizen, he should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.” The section also points out that as an employee of the college, the professor “should remember that the public may judge his profession and his institution by his utterances. Hence he should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that he is not an institutional spokesman.”

FIRE also argued that it’s a stretch to assume that Phansey had been advocating actual violence. “In political rhetoric, figurative and hyperbolic language have been familiar tools for centuries, and Phansey’s post is quite obviously a criticism — not endorsement — of threats of violence, mixed with snark about American culture.”


4. Asheen Phansey Earned His MBA From Babson & Ran Its Sustainability Department

Asheen Phansey

Asheen Phansey

Asheen Phansey was associated with Babson College for nearly 15 years. He earned his MBA from the Babson F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business in 2008.

He began teaching that same year. Phansey explained on his LinkedIn page that he was a part-time adjunct professor. He taught MBA courses in entrepreneurship and marketing. Phansey also noted that he “helped develop curriculum for an undergraduate class titled “Biomimicry & Business Ecology.”

Phansey began a full-time job at Babson on February of 2019. He served as the Director of Sustainability. The department focuses on implementing campus-wide strategies to save the environment. Phansey’s bio has been taken off the website, but he explained on LinkedIn that his job included working with “relevant stakeholders including staff, faculty, students, alums, and outside constituents to promote, engage, and improve sustainability initiatives, culture, and pedagogy throughout the Babson community.”


5. Phansey Works as an Independent Consultant & Is Involved With an Action Fund That Advocates For Environmental Policies

Asheen Phansey

Massachusetts

Asheen Phansey has his own consulting company that is registered with the state of Massachusetts. He launched Phansey Consulting LLC in October of 2018, according to state records. Phansey explained on LinkedIn that his goal is to assist “companies and nonprofits in Corporate Responsibility.”

Phansey is also involved with the Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund. The group works to promote policies to protect the environment. Phansey is listed as the group’s Treasurer.

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